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Service Learning site visit to ASCC

Two representatives from the University of Hawaii Service Learning Program, Executive Director Atina Pascua and State Network Director Denise Pierson, visited American Samoa last week to make site visits and observe the many Service Learning projects integrated into the curriculum at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC). 

“I would rate the success of Service Learning at ASCC very highly,” said Pascua, “given that the number of participating faculty is way above the national average.” ASCC first integrated Service Learning into its curriculum in 1997, and by 2008 it had been incorporated, formally or informally, into 44% of its courses.

Service Learning, which follows the simple concept that the instructors can reinforce the learning experience by incorporating some component of service to the community, takes a myriad of forms at ASCC. Teacher Education Department act as substitute instructors at Pavai'a'i Elementary School when the regular teachers call in sick.  Samoan Studies Institute students interview elderly persons within their own villages, especially those with special cultural knowledge, and later compile these interviews for publication. Students from the Business Department assist members of the public with filing their income tax.

Service Learning options do not replace regular classroom instruction, but rather supplement with it with real life experience that reinforces the course content. Instructors incorporate it as an option rather than a requirement, but given the Samoan natural tendency towards “tautua” or service, many students at ASCC enjoy participating in Service Learning opportunities.

The main link between ASCC and the nationwide Service Learning network is the Hawaii Pacific Islands Campus Compact (HIPICC), with which the UH Service Learning Program is also affiliated. HIPICC, a member of National Campus Compact, is an organization of college and university presidents in Hawaii and the US Pacific territories established to enhance the links between their respective colleges and universities and their local communities. HIPICC member colleges, with significant support from the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) and the National Science Foundation, have recently increased their emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) career and degree pathways in calculus, life sciences, physical sciences, engineering, technology, and health sciences.

With this recent trend among HIPICC member institutions, Pascua explained that most HIPICC funding for Service Learning now focuses on projects that fulfill STEM criteria.  “Although we support and encourage all types of service learning at ASCC, we are working on growing the amount of STEM outreach because we need to increase the number of students interested in pursuing degrees in math, science, and technology,” she said. “This new emphasis on increasing science-related opportunities for students in real life situations, while they simultaneously help their communities, is intended to provide them with exposure to career possibilities they might not have considered before.”

HIPICC has been awarded a Learn and Serve America grant for 2010-2013 through the CNCS. This three-year grant is renewable upon successful completion of each year. Through the Oceanic EcosySTEM program, HIPICC has made funding is available for campus-based sub-grants to support civic engagement and service learning programs in schools and communities in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. ASCC Marine Science Coordinator Kelly Anderson Tagarino has taken the initiative to coordinate internship opportunities with a number of local environmental agencies, and has successfully submitted a funding proposal to Oceanic EcosySTEM. “It’s structured to provide modest stipends for students working with community partners on scientific projects that benefit the community,” explained Tagarino. “All of the internship opportunities relate to science, with some having heavier math or engineering components.” Community partners in this effort include the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the American Samoa Coastal Management Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Islands Regional Office, Sea Grant and ASCC Marine Science.

When asked about the highlights of her trip, Pascua said these included “reconnecting with the many wonderful faculty that teach Service Learning courses and have continued their good work for many years, hearing from the Administration about how much Service Learning has contributed to the success of the students at ASCC, as well as meeting the new faculty and learning about their plans to incorporate it. Most of all we enjoyed hearing from the students about the adventures and opportunities they are having taking courses that have a Service Learning component.”

For more information on Service Learning at ASCC, contact Service Learning Coordinator Mrs. Elisapeta Fa’alafi-Jones at 699-9155.